Dallas Wings, ‘disciplined on defense and offense’, extend series with Game 2 road victory

The No. 6 seed Dallas Wings saved their season for at least one more game, staving off elimination on the road, and earned the franchise’s first playoff win with an 89-79 win over the No. 3 seed Connecticut Suns on Sunday. Game 2 of the first round of the WNBA playoffs.

The organization last won a playoff game on September 23, 2009, when it was still located in Detroit, and has lost eight consecutive playoff contests – tied for the longest playoff losing streak in league history – dating back to the end of last year. Through the Shock era and recent stints in Tulsa and Dallas.

Under the WNBA’s new playoff format, the series now moves to a winner-take-all Game 3 in Dallas on Wednesday at 9pm ET for a spot in the semifinals.

“Every year, our goal is to make the playoffs and I think it’s very important that we step up to win,” said Alisha Gray, who was drafted by Dallas in 2017. “Now we go home to Dallas to play. In front of our home fans. So we’re very excited about that.”

After the Suns beat the Wings by 25 in Game 1, Sunday’s bounce-back marked just the second time in WNBA postseason history that a team lost by 25 or more points but won the next game by double digits.

“We were focused and we were very disciplined on defense and offense,” Wings coach Vicki Johnson said. “We moved the basketball. We played together as a team. And we believed. After the loss, we came into the last few days with a different focus.

“We gave 110% in both energy and effort.”

The Wings’ recent hot streak (they went 6-2 to close the regular season) has been made all the more impressive by the absence of Arike Ogunbowale, who has been a top-five scorer in the WNBA since being drafted in 2019 but has been ruled out. Knocked out in the first round with an abdominal injury.

Kayla Thornton led the Wings with 20 points (including 4 for 6 on 3s), followed by Tierra McCowan with 17 and Gray with 15.

Connecticut’s Jones duo — Briona and Jonquel, no relation — each finished with 20 points.

The Suns are hoping to reach the semifinals for the fourth straight season; Last year, they lost to the eventual champion Chicago Sky in four games in the semifinals.

“That’s how you play series,” Suns coach Kurt Miller said. “That’s why coaches are excited about this type of format. Wins and losses are very thin in this league. Dallas reminds me a lot of Chicago last year. They’re a .500 team that obviously has better than .500 talent. They got hot late in the year. It’s a Elite, talented team with top four talent in this league. So we knew it was going to be a very tough series and we were right for an elimination game. Not at all. People are surprised to see how much talent they have.”

The groundwork for the rout was laid early: Behind greater defensive energy from the wings than Thursday, the Suns scored just 7 points in the first quarter, their fewest of any stretch this season and tied for their second-fewest in any playoff quarter. According to ESPN Statistics and Information Research, the league switched from halves to quarters in 2006. It didn’t help that the Suns started 1-7 on open shots.

Dallas led by 19 in the first half and used a 30-17 third quarter to put the game away for good. Then, despite leading by 31 in the fourth, the Suns outscored the Wings 32-13 to make the final score look better than most of the game.

The Wings beat the Suns at their own game, outscoring them in transition (13-6), second-chance points (23-11) and points off turnovers (20-13). Connecticut forced just eight Dallas turnovers in Game 1 compared to 17.

“It’s the playoffs,” WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones said. “One minute you’re up, the next minute you’re down, but you have to weather that storm and be ready to play. We know what we’re capable of. We’re not in any panic mode.”

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